September 21, 2021
Although they account for just five percent of all students in U.S. colleges and universities, international students play an important role in our economy. They gravitate towards the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, producing a large number of patents and gaining skills that help our employers innovate and compete. They spend tens of billions of dollars as consumers, supporting local businesses. And the companies they go on to found—such as Google, Yahoo!, and Trulia—employ hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans.
Fueling the Economy
About 18.5 million foreign-born students study at American colleges and universities. In addition to their academic and cultural contributions, they support the economies of college communities through tuition payments and spending on housing, books, and other day-to-day expenses.1
1 “NAFSA International Student Economic Value Tool | NAFSA,” accessed June 28, 2016. Available online.
|890,677: Number of students in the country on temporary visas, 2014.|
|4.8 percent: Share of postsecondary student population overall made up of international students, 2014.|
|$32.8 billion: Economic revenue attributable to international students, 2015.|
|334,041: Jobs supported by international students, 2014.|
Innovating for the Future
International STEM students and graduates are behind some of America’s most impressive innovations, from artificial skin to moldable metal. Studies show that immigrants with an advanced degree are three times more likely than U.S.-born graduate degree holders to file a patent.2 When universities increase their share of international students, they often receive more patents—boosting revenue and creating more opportunities for all students.
2 Jennifer Hunt and Marjolaine Gauthier-Loiselle, “How Much Does Immigration Boost Innovation?,” NBER Working Paper, (September 2008). Available online.
3 Chellaraj, Gnanaraj, Keith E. Maskus, and Aaditya Mattoo. 2005. “The Contribution of Skilled Immigration and International Graduate Students to US Innovation.” World Bank Policy Research Working Paper (3588). Retrieved November 10, 2014. Available online.
|76 percent: Share of patents awarded to the top 10 most productive research universities in 2011 that had at least one foreign-born inventor, 2011.|
|88: Number of unique countries of origin of the immigrants behind those patents.|
|$449.3 million: Licensure revenue earned by those schools, 2010.|
|6.8 percent: Estimated increase in the number of patents awarded to a university within seven years every time the number of foreign-born student rises by 10 percent.3|
|University of California System||76%|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||72%|
|University of Wisconsin- Madison||71%|
|University of Texas System||73%|
|California Institute of Technology||80%|
|University of Illinois System||90%|
|University of Michigan System||74%|
|Georgia Institute of Technology||88%|
From Graduates to Entrepreneurs
The inventions of foreign-born students often do more than just earn patents. They spawn start-ups and new divisions of companies that create jobs for American workers. Foreign-born students at American schools founded companies like Sun Microsystems (now a part of Oracle), Google, and Yahoo!.
4 Edward B. Roberts, Fiona Murray, and J. Daniel Kim, “Entrepreneurship and Innovation at MIT: Continuing Global Growth and Impact” (MIT Innovation Initiative, December 2015). Available online.
5 Vivek Wadhwa et al., “America’s New Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Part I,” SSRN Scholarly Paper (Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, 2007). Available online.
|2,340: Number of U.S.-based companies founded by foreign-born alumni of just one school, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.4|
|100,000: Number of workers employed at those firms.|
|25 percent: Share of high-tech companies launched from 1995 to 2005 that were founded by foreign-born entrepreneurs, some of whom were students.5|
|450,000: Number of jobs created by those entrepreneurs.|
Boosting State Economies
In 2015, the large number of international students in both New York and California generated close to $4 billion in revenue for each state. In eight states, foreign-born students generated revenues in excess of $1 billion—supporting tens of thousands of jobs.
|State||Number of International Postsecondary Students, 2014||Economic Revenue from Foreign Students||Jobs Supported|
Educating the Next Generation
Foreign-born professionals play a large role in educating American students. In 22 states, the occupation “postsecondary teacher” ranks among the top 10 jobs in which immigrants make up the largest share of workers. In six of those states, that role ranks among the top three jobs most heavily reliant on immigrants.
|State||Foreign-Born Postsecondary Teachers||Foreign-Born Share of all Postsecondary Teachers|
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New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…